It wasn’t so long ago that superhero films were measured by the yard stick of a certain pointy-eared franchise that both invented the term “reboot” and gave the world Heath Ledger’s Joker. Indeed, before superheroes became blockbuster television, they reached for being trilogies—and even prior to Batman Begins, they were something else all together.
While chatting with The Hollywood Reporter, Christopher Nolan (making the rounds for Interstellar during awards season) reflected on all this and how Batman Begins inadvertently kicked off a franchising craze—and how the studio form has moved on since The Dark Knight Rises closed the book.
It came to me in a very interesting way,” Nolan said. “Which was my agent, Dan Aloni, called and said, ‘It seems unlikely you’d be interested in this, but Warners is sort of casting around for what they would do with Batman.’ It had reached the end of its last sort of life, if you’d like. And at the time, nobody used the term “reboot” — that didn’t exist — so it was really a question of, ‘What would you do with this?’ I said, ‘Well, actually, that is something I’m interested in,’ because one of the great films that I am very influenced by that we haven’t talked about was Dick Donner’s Superman….And so I was able to get in the studio and say, ‘Well, that’s what I would do with it.’ I don’t even know who was first banging around the term ‘reboot’ or whatever, but it was after Batman Begins, so we didn’t have any kind of reference for that idea of kind of resetting a franchise. It was more a thing of, ‘Nobody’s ever made this origin story in this way and treated it as a piece of action filmmaking, a sort of contemporary action blockbuster.’”
Nolan continued, “What I loved about Superman was the way New York felt like New York, or rather Metropolis felt like New York. Metropolis felt like a city you could recognize — and then there was this guy flying through the streets. ‘That’s amazing, so let’s do that for Batman, and let’s start by putting together an amazing cast,’ which is what they had done with that film, but which I hadn’t seen done since — they had everybody from [Marlon Brando] to Glenn Ford, playing Superman’s dad, you know, it was an incredible cast. So we started putting together this amazing cast based around Christian [Bale], who seemed perfect for Batman, but bringing him Sir Michael Caine and Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman and Tom Wilkinson. It was just incredible.”
But perhaps most intriguingly, Nolan reflected on how the genre and franchising has changed since his Batman films.
“At the time, everybody thought in terms of trilogies, which I guess they probably don’t anymore, because they split the third film into two,” Nolan said with a laugh. “But at the time, The Matrix guys were doing their sequels, everything was about trilogies; ‘What’s the trilogy?!’ And we didn’t want to answer that question. Privately, ourselves, we started to put together a vague idea of where a second and third film were going, and then I immediately shot them down. I was like, ‘You know what? You’ve got to put everything into the one movie and just try and make a great movie because you may not get this chance again.’ And then, when it succeeded, we were able to think about, ‘Okay, what would we do in a sequel?’ We were able to adapt and grow with the way the public perceived the films and what the films became, as opposed to trying to plan ahead, you know, five, six years, or whatever.”
That is an especially revealing insight for the modern superhero blockbuster, which no longer aims to be a single story, but is rather one piece a story that is currently spanning over at least a half dozen films and past 2020 for each respective studio…
In the meantime, we recommend you read the rest of that thoughtful interview by clicking right here.